STATE TIMES NEWS LEH: Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) Leh on Thursday announced to charge Rs 400 as environmental fee from domestic as well as foreign tourists visiting Leh from 1st April 2017. Chairing meeting of LAHDC Leh, Chief Executive Councillor, LAHDC, Dr Sonam Dawa informed that Rs 400 will be charged from each visitor whether the person is a domestic tourist or a foreigner. “Mechanism will also be worked to ensure a smooth collection of the fee from each tourist visiting Ladakh. Persons below 12 years and those from the State of Jammu and Kashmir holding State Subjects will be exempted from paying environmental fee,” Dawa said. Regarding imposition of environmental, fee Dr Dawa informed that meeting that the present LAHDC is carrying forward what was created by the previous Hill Council. He said funds collected through environmental fee will be spent to create facilities to the tourists in different touristic locations. It was also decided to frame a committee at the LAHDC level with members from travel trades to take a decision as to how revenue generated through environmental fee would be spent. As per the existing norm environmental for domestic visitor is Rs 200 and for foreign visitor it is Rs 300. Tour operators proposed uniform imposition of environmental fee for domestic and foreign tourists as they claimed that foreigners are relatively more sensitive to the ecology than most domestic tourists. Deputy Commissioner stressed that need of the hour is to promote responsible tourism so that Ladakh’s pristine beauty and fragile ecology are preserved. He also felt that environmental fee imposed on tourists should be spent on environmental related activities. A discussion on Chadar trek in winter also took place and tour operators pleaded that guides, helpers and porters be exempted from paying the fee of Rs 500 per individual on Chadar trek. However, the meeting didn’t reconsider the notification already issued through Wildlife Department. SSP Leh asked all travel agencies of Leh to maintain proper records of tourists visiting through them. President Merchant Association, Riyaz Ahamd informed that toilets in Leh bazaar are found locked which leads visitors to face huge inconvenience. Chairman Ladakh Travel Trade Alliance, P.T Kunzang proposed that Ladakh Festival be revisited and made lively with new innovations as it has over the years become monotonous. He also asked administration to come up with effective means of garbage disposal system. The meeting was attended by Executive Councillors Mumtaz Hussain, Tsering Wangdus and Dorjay Motup, Deputy Commissioner Prassana Ramaswamy G, SSP Leh Udhay Bhaskar Billa, Additional DC Moses Kunzang, Lower Leh Councillor P. Wangdan, Upper Leh Councillor Gen Lobzang Nyantak, and head of various line departments besides heads and representatives from Ladakh Travel Trade Alliance, All Ladakh Tours Operators Association, Hotel Association, Taxi Operators Cooperative Ltd, Tempo Travellers Union, Bikers Association and Merchant Association.
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